Welcome to the Clever Cyclist

Hello and welcome to The Clever Cyclist.

While  I was trying to come up with a name for my blog,  I got this in a fortune cookie:

And thus, the Clever Cyclist was born

This site will be equal measures tongue-in-cheek blog, contemplative recollection, product review, advice for road cyclists and more.


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Cycle With Champions – Team Swift fundraiser

Yesterday was the annual Team Swift fundraiser, the Cycle With Champions. While I didn’t have the full morning to enjoy the whole ride, it was fun heading out with them and catching up with some of my friends.

To read more about the Team Swift Cycle With Champions, please click here:
Cycle With Champions

The energy was fantastic. There were easily over one hundred cyclists there. And lots of volunteers. So many good folks, all gathered to support Team Swift.

Taken from mid-pack moments after the start

There are easily as many behind me as there are in front

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Tour De Francis

Very cool video:
Tour de Francis

Cyril has a cool collection of videos on his site, several of which are cycling themed.
The Next VMS

Scroll down to the Bike Parkour Melbourne video for some impressive trials style skills.

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From the France Diary… January 5, 2008 complete

The kilometers passed easily beneath my wheels; 4km from Bois to Conzieu, 1km from Conzieu to Crapeou, another kilometer to Ambleon and two more to Appregnin. The road carried me mostly north and slightly west up the valley and with every passing kilometer, I was moving steadily closer to the taller hills on the west side of the Bugey. Getting out of the valley would entail climbing and just two hundred meters shy of Appregnin, I would make a sharp left turn and begin the ascent of the Cote de Fuses.

In France, the January sun is low in the sky. While the roads in the center of the valley were getting their share of warming rays, the road up the cote, to the summit at Lac d’Ambleon, was on the shaded side of the densely forested mountain. The evergreens stood tall and silently proud, seemingly unaffected by any manner of weather. In stark contrast, the broad-leafed deciduous trees, crouching and nearly naked, had lost all but the most tenacious of leaves. My tires would crunch through the few ice-covered leaves that lay on the road, but the forest floor appeared to be thick with layer upon layer of fallen foliage.

While the air itself was chilly, the climbing kept me comfortably warm. In fact I unzipped my vest and one of my jerseys. There is something so nice about climbing through the quiet cold. With just the bike and breathing, I could focus on pedaling smooth round circles.

At one point, near the top of the Cote, there was a surreal moment. As the summit approached, the sun begin to peak its lazy head over the top of the mountain. I was pedaling moderately hard and could feel the warmth of the sun as the occasional ray struck my face. I came around the penultimate turn before the summit to see that the Lac d’Ambleon had completely frozen over. The road bent to the right and I emerged from the shade into broad sunlight. The sun’s brightness exploded off the frozen surface of the lake and for a moment, it was almost blinding. Frozen prisms cast their rainbow refractions from a million glistening facets of frozen splendor and I was overwhelmed by the multi-spectral whiteness of it all. But then, just as quickly, the road turned again, thrusting me back into the shade of the mountain. Briefly, the temperature dipped and for the next several hundred meters, I could hear my tires crunching on thin verglas (black-ice.) I let myself ride slowly, always sure to find the roughest part of the road where traction was the best.

Just beyond the frozen lake lay one final short slope to get to the top. And between me and the top, there sat a seemingly impenetrable wall of thick fog. I approached cautiously. To the left, the wall of fog met the rocky side of the hill. To the right, the fog extended like misty tendrils reaching out through the trees. I was fully expecting to completely disappear as I entered the fog. But, as quickly as I entered, I came out the other side. It was truly perplexing to me that any cloud or fog or mist could appear to be so thick, yet be so thin. And with that passing of the fog, I had summited the Cote du Fuses.

The descent back into the Rhone was fun. As this was a south-western facing slope and mostly exposed to the sun, the ride down was mostly predictable. But, as the road occasionally plunged through ancient forests, there were areas of startling cold, black-ice and short sections of slimy ooze.

So, I kept the speed in check and let my eyes enjoy the view. Even from the lower slopes of the Bugey, I could see over and across the fog of the Rhone valley below, past well manicured pastures and out to a horizon dotted with mid-evil chateaus and finally culminating in a dramatic alpine backdrop of snow-capped peaks.

By the time I reached Lhuis, the town near the bottom of the descent, my face had frozen into a grin of pure delight. This was France and I was riding on epic roads. With a contented smile, I continued down the gentle descent from Lhuis into the fog of Groslee and from there wove a very indirect route home.

The fog was thick enough that being on the main roads did not seem prudent. Instead, I chose the secondary and smaller roads, enjoying every pedal stroke as the bike carried me over narrow single lane roads and mud covered cart paths.

It was a fantastic 4 hours on the bike. I finished tired, cold and hungry, which made for a nearly perfect ride. Once home, I showered and changed into warm clothes. Robert and I headed to Morestel for well deserved pizza and beer. What an awesome day – Merci Robert!

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From the France Diary… January 5, 2008 continued

From the town of Glandieu, a nearly 2km ascent meant climbing out of the thick fog and into a sunlit Bugey, which are the mountains immediately to the east of Glandieu. As the cold mist parted, the sun revealed the entrance to an elevated plateau surrounded by ice covered crags and snowy peaks.

It was in the Bugey that I lost myself on countless small farm roads, rolling up short steep climbs and twisting back down into ancient mountain villages, well off the beaten tourist path. Though sunny and clear, the moderate elevation meant cold. Ice and frost were abundant and shaded areas were truly frigid. But every chilling dip into a small cold valley was followed by a short but significant effort that helped maintain body temperature. Honestly, it was awesome. The sun was shining and I was cycling in France.

For the most part, I had been trying to dead reckon my way north through the center of the Bugey. I had somewhat studied a map before I set off into this region unknown and I even brought a map with me on the ride. However, I was reluctant to stop, mostly because I was having too much fun rolling around in unfamiliar territory. Initially, I had not gone quite far enough east toward St. Bois. By trying to go north too soon, I had gotten on to a series of dead-end roads. It was more than alright, though. I had food in my pockets, water in the bottles, a little money in my pockets and I was completely stoked to be riding in France again.

It was in 1990 that I lived and raced my bike in Brittany. Back on that trip, I arrived in Quimper in mid-April and stayed until the end of October. I had always thought I’d come back to France to ride more, but I never imagined that it would take 17 years!

Stoked though I was to be back in France, I was aware that the day wouldn’t last forever. I was just about to stop to refamiliarize myself with the map, when I saw a sign directing me to St. Bois. Once there, the road flattened significantly. It was nice to just let the bike roll at steady tempo through the small towns of Conzieu and Crapeou as I made my way north toward the base of the next climb at Appregnin.

To read more, please click From the France Diary… January 5, 2008 complete

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From the France Diary… January 5, 2008

For a boy from California who has grown accustomed to riding a bike in more moderate temperatures, the chill of France in January was almost too much. It would have been easy to stay indoors, at the coffee shops, the restaurants, the bars or any of the places where the French congregate to keep themselves out of the cold damp that is the Rhône-Alpes in winter.

For the last few years, my cycling friend Robert had asked me if I’d like to stay at his place in France to go for some bike rides. He had been going back and forth between Sonoma County and France for the last several years. He’d asked several times and I’d always said something like, “yeah, that sounds nice.” I really did want to go, as I always tried to seize the opportunities to pedal in Europe. But, I knew I’d have to save up for a trip overseas.

At some point in November 2007, Robert asked again if I’d like to go ride my bike in France. “Hey, Steve,” he started. “Want to come ride your bike in France in January?” The real catalyst of this particular trip was that he had been considering living there year-round, so he wanted to see what it would be like to ride there in the winter.

And truth be told, it wasn’t THAT bad. While I was there, the mornings were in the Fahrenheit teens and would rise up to freezing by 10 or 11am. By noon, we’d even see the number 2 or 3 on the Celsius calibrated French thermometers. Things wouldn’t stay “balmy” for long and by mid-afternoon, the timid mercury would hunker back down at the lower end of the stick.

Now, it isn’t fashionable to travel to France and complain about the cold (though, I must admit that I did complain, more than once) and I didn’t come here just to be a tourist and drink Pastis (though I did, more than once. That’s what people do in those places where you go to stay warm.) France is for cycling, I came here to ride and yesterday I got my money’s worth. I left Robert’s place around noon, departing into a cold damp fog. In preparation for the cold, I donned 2 pair of leg warmers, 2 long sleeve jerseys, 1 short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, a thermal vest, 2 pair of thin shoe covers, thermal booties, as well as a thermal head cover, my trusted double layer thermal gloves and 3 socks. And to tell the truth, I am glad I wore all of it. Hmmm, where did that third sock go?

The first 10 miles through the fog were on rolling wet roads which gently twisted and meandered down to the historic stone bridge, Le Pont de Groslee, which crosses the Rhone. The ride continued in a south-easterly direction on a well maintained system of bike paths. After just a few miles, the route took me east off of the path and then north, toward the base of a frozen waterfall at Glandieu.

This was about as far as Robert and I had gotten to on our first outing on the bike, just two days before. Neither of us had worn adequate clothing. So, on that day, we made a short loop back toward the bridge at Groslee and made for home. That proved to be the correct decision for the day, as the temperature dropped early that afternoon and it was below freezing when we got back to Robert’s place.

But, today I was prepared and my mind was set to explore. I was dressed for the cold, I had food and I was ready to pedal.

To read more, please click From the France Diary… January 5, 2008 continued

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Just a bike ride

Yesterday, I went for a bike ride. It wasn’t hard, per se, but it wasn’t easy. Covering a total of 26 miles, it wasn’t exactly a marathon, in bicycle distance. It wasn’t hot or cold. It was just a bike ride. And I can tell you this, it was so nice to get out.

I’ve been cooked since the fondo. I think I dug a pretty deep hole for myself at last Saturday’s big event. I know all about the importance of active recovery, but sometimes you just have to take a few days off. I did. And I’m glad I did. The legs still don’t feel 100%, but by yesterday, most of the residual muscle soreness and tightness had gone. It was almost a surprise, but the pedaling action was nearly circular and smooth.

There was another nice surprise on the ride yesterday. I ran into Jess, a former customer from the West County Revolution Bike Shop. In my (recent) former life as merchant and purveyor of all things bike, running into customers on the open road was an interesting thing for me, psychologically speaking. I was always acutely aware that my livelihood depended on being able to sell things. The ABS and ABC of business was perpetual. Always be selling and always be closing, words to live and die by for those who have stores.

I’ve kept something of a low profile since the shop has closed. Sometimes it is hard answering the “what happened?” question. Sometimes it’s hard just wondering if people are going to ask.

But, yesterday was different. I ran into Jess on Hall Road. He and I had ridden together before, back when the shop was open. He’d come out to many of the shop rides. He is a strong rider who isn’t afraid to work hard on the bike. In fact, he is pretty fast and even won a couple of the shop sponsored hill climb time trial.

And so, yesterday, what made riding with Jess so nice was that I was no longer a merchant, salesman or purveyor. We were just a couple of cyclists riding bikes and catching up. We weren’t going too fast and we weren’t going too slow. It was a nice bike ride and I look forward to more nice bike rides.

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A solo ride over the Geysers

Sonoma County has got to be one of the best places on the planet
to ride a bike. This past Saturday was the 2012 edition of Levi’s Gran Fondo, which means that over 7000 cyclists got to discover just how incredible the riding here can be.

Back in the eighties, when I used to train “seriously”, I was glad to have all the roads
for the varied terrain and awesome scenery. Now that I am not so
interested in racing, I am glad to know all the local roads, yeah,
for the varied terrain and awesome scenery…

Riding in the Fondo, amongst thousands of other cyclists, is an amazing thing and it is a lot of fun. And one of the additional perks of a ride like that is that you get passed by very few cars. While I was riding the fondo, I tried to remember the last time that I had gone on a long ride and got passed by so few cars. And then I remembered this.

A few years ago back, I went out on a really nice bike ride. It was just me and my iPod.
For awhile, I really liked riding with that little gizmo. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend riding with headphones. My solution: I bought a cheap set of headphones and cut off the left earpiece. So, when I rode, I would only have the right one in. It didn’t offer the greatest sound quality, but it worked AND I had an ear free to hear traffic. It worked well.

That day, I had 85 glorious miles, with Rob Zombie and Rammstein to keep me
company. It had been raining a fair amount up here, but that day was clear.
And, with my minimal work schedule, there was nothing to keep me from reveling
in the spring-like sunshine that evaporated all but the largest of puddles.
The first and last 30 miles of the ride were rather flat. If it weren’t for
the middle part of this ride, there really wouldn’t be that much to write about.
But it was the middle 25 miles that made the first and last 30 so worth pedaling.
Yep, it was all about the Geysers. OK, up here, people talk about the
Geysers. For some, they may be talking about the Geothermal Electric plants
located several miles east and a couple a thousand feet above Geyserville, CA.
For others, talk of the Geysers may evoke images of the occasional plume of
white steam emerging from the rocky crags in that same area. But to cyclists
in the area, talk of “The Geysers” really means riding Geysers Road, from Alexander
Valley, up to Mercuryville (The Half Mile High City) and back down to
Cloverdale. It is a sparsely traveled road, offering extended climbs, stellar
views and unparalleled riding, that covers a 25 mile stretch of (mostly) paved

And on that day, over this particular 25 miles, I saw precisely ONE car.

It was the kind of day that reminded me, or perhaps just reinforced, why I LOVE
riding bikes.

The long and steady climbs offered a unique opportunity for quiet
introspection. With no traffic, it was just me, the bike and the road. The
39-25 offered a climbing gear of sufficient ease to allow the pedals to turn
with no great resistance. Steady pedaling and steady breathing, the tempo itself
carried me up the road. The internal focus on rhythm was frequently punctuated
by an external focus on the increasingly breathtaking views.
The summits arrived almost too quickly, providing the mixed feelings of
accomplishment and the desire for more. Any sense of longing for more altitude
was quickly replaced by the sheer delight at the well deserved speed that the
next 14 miles provided.

The descent from Mercuryville starts off steep, but after the initial plunge,
the road loses altitude gradually, so that over a period of many miles,
sweeping corners present themselves at perfect pace. One feels a sense of flying and freedom.

To be clear, the pavement is NOT perfect. There are sections of gravel. There are potholes. And there is any manner of debris. Even so, the riding is epic and fun.

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Today was the Gran Fondo

This event really deserves a long post. But you know what… I am too tired to type

It was massive fun

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My Funnest Ride

I was recently asked, “Steve, what was your funnest ride?” After 33 years of cycling on the road, plus a pre-adolescence perched atop one of several BMX bikes, how does one pick out a single experience? Let’s just say that there are no clear favorites, yet there are MANY great memories.

So, how did I answer that question on that day? Well, let’s see. Click To Read More!

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